Sunday, April 5, 2009

A new film takes on the horrors of the Nanking Massacre

by Chris MaGee

Here's a news item about an upcoming film that addresses the darkest depths of Japan's wartime past. Lu Chuan, who previously directed the surprise international art house hit "Mountain Patrol", has taken on one of WW2's most inhumane atrocities, the Nanking Massacre. Beginning in December of 1937 after Imperial Japanese forces invaded and occupied Nanking, the then capital of the Republic of China, it's estimated that between 100,000 to 340,000 Chinese were killed in an orgy of rape, torture and murder rarely if ever seen in military history. To this day the Nanking Massacre represents a lightning rod of controversy between Japan and its mainland neighbours with Chinese citizens and historians continuing to lobby for Japan to fully acknowledge the horrors that took place at the hands of the Imperial Army during those four dark months.

It's been a long road for Chuan's $12 million U.S. film which was originally titled "Nanking! Nanking!", but has since been re-titled "City of Life and Death". After an extensive review process and the cutting of a couple grisly scenes the completed film will open in Beijing on April 16 and will then roll out into over 1,200 of China's 4,000 theatres in the following months. Despite this monumental release the film is garnering some angry reactions from Chinese historians and critics. The film which is told from the viewpoints of a Chinese citizen, a young Japanese soldier and foreign missionary apparently features depictions of Japanese soldiers as fully fleshed out human beings as opposed to demonic conquerors and bucks the official Chinese party line by showing some citizens of Nanking fighting back against their occupiers as opposed to simply being innocent victims of the slaughter.

Of course the Nanking Massacre has been the subject of numerous films over the past decade, from the 2007 documentary "Nanking" featuring such Hollywood heavyweights as Woody Harrelson and Mariel Hemingway to the Japanese film "The Truth about Nanking" directed by Satoru Mizushima that severely downgrades the atrocities that took place.

You can check out the trailer for Chuan's "City of Life and Death" below that comes courtesy of Wildgrounds. For those interested in hearing more about Chuan's artistic journey with the film you check out this interview at the Hollywood Reporter.

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